The following comes to us from JFCS Psychotherapist Kelly Moore:
GLO is an organization located in Harrisburg, PA that serves youth and young adult LGBTQ+ of color. GLO originated from the organization SILK, which was implemented here in Pittsburgh. It is GLO’s focus for this population to be provided a safe space and resources because it is recognized that they are very often marginalized and encounter dangerous situations because of their race, sexuality, and/or gender identity. GLO offers counseling, social services, a drop in space, rapid STI/HIV testing, and self care based programs. Their vision statement is: “To empower members of our communities to live healthy, authentic lives.”
A staff member at GLO recently participated in a zoom call led by JFCS’s other Trauma Art Therapist, Angelica Joy Miskanin, and that person deeply connected to the information Angelica shared. Angelica was then invited to speak with GLO’s staff and community members. She and I collaborated to come up with content catered to the needs of this community related to trauma and self care practices.
Last week, Angelica and I met with the staff members of GLO to discuss how stress and trauma impact the brain and body, and how the practice of creative expression can help to regulate our emotions and nervous system. One of the goals that we set was to create an environment of engagement and safety. To the best of our ability, we addressed the differences of our race, sexuality, gender expression, life experiences, and trauma histories, acknowledging that these factors play a role in how information is received and perceived. We encouraged the staff to actively participate along with us in the group, to provide any feedback, and to know that any feelings that may arise were valid and to honor them however they felt appropriate.
Together, we engaged in an art therapy directive. Following this activity, each person was given an opportunity to share their experience at their comfort level. At the end of any creative arts group, it is important to thank the individuals for being brave and courageous in engaging in a space of vulnerability — whether it is speaking about themselves or sharing their artwork. Within a group setting it can be difficult to put ourselves out there for others to judge or critique us. However, it’s important to note that within art therapy practice, what matters is the process of creating the art and what comes up for the person while they are making it. It is a practice of giving oneself grace and self love.
I can speak on behalf of Angelica and myself that meeting with the staff of GLO was a true delight. They are an organization that does powerful work in their community. We were encouraged to engage in conversation with them and to be a part of each other’s journeys. Angelica and I will be leading a similar program with GLO participants within the next few days. We feel honored to be partnering with GLO’s staff and community members to help provide support to one another during these particularly difficult times.